It takes a lot of courage to stand up and make yourself heard on unpopular topics. But it’s only really courageous if you are willing to accept responsibility for being wrong. Jenny McCarthy stood up. She made herself heard. In the process she got a lot of media attention, led a march on Washington (the Green Our Vaccines rally), and sold a lot of books. That was years ago. Now we are seeing the outbreaks of disease that so many, even Ms. McCarthy, predicted based on the path she set. Back then she at least had the guts to say, “it’s not my fault” (I disagree). Now she’s just absent from the public’s eye on this topic. Instead we get her new reality show.
Today, a measles outbreak originating in Jenny McCarthy’s old backyard (southern California) has reached about 100 people infected (50 in the state, 23 more whose connection to the epicenter of the outbreak is unknown and more out of state). And, no comment from Ms. McCarthy. But she wasn’t always so quiet. Consider this statement from an interview in Time Magazine:
I do believe sadly it’s going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it’s their f___ing fault that the diseases are coming back. They’re making a product that’s s___. If you give us a safe vaccine, we’ll use it. It shouldn’t be polio versus autism.
The idea that somehow a resurgence of disease would lead to a change in vaccines didn’t make sense to me back then. It seemed like some nasty game of “chicken” where Ms. McCarthy was going to frighten enough people about vaccines that outbreaks would be possible. Frighten with statements like “they’re making a product that’s shit” and that the vaccines are not safe. Somehow, once this fear was instilled and the drop in vaccination rates happened, outbreaks would happen and these would prove her point that the vaccines are “shit” and the vaccines would be reinvented.
Apparently Ms. McCarthy realized that this logic wasn’t sound as she started distancing herself from the vaccine message years ago. Instead of being at the forefront of her movement today, ready to force the changes she predicted, she brings handlers to interviews to deflect questions on vaccines. She points people to her nonpology and nosplenation of her views in an op-ed published by the Chicago Sun Times, Jenny McCarthy: The gray area on vaccines
Here’s a defensive paragraph (and a straw man argument) in that op-ed:
“People have the misconception that we want to eliminate vaccines,” I told Time Magazine science editor Jeffrey Kluger in 2009. “Please understand that we are not an anti-vaccine group. We are demanding safe vaccines. We want to reduce the schedule and reduce the toxins.”
Here’s the thing. Many people have called out Jenny McCarthy over the years for her irresponsible statements about vaccines. She spread a lot of fear. One doesn’t read “They’re making a product that’s shit” or a correction of that view at the Sun Times. One doesn’t hear blanket statements that vaccines are all unsafe (“If you give us a safe vaccine, we’ll use it.”) One doesn’t read her statements that vaccines are behind the rise in diagnosed autism rates. One doesn’t hear her state that if she had another child, she wouldn’t vaccinate (a statement she made back when she was more vocal). No, all we get is her “grey area” on vaccines.
Also, not comment about the impending outbreaks.
Which brings me back to: where’s the courage in hiding and dodging the consequences of your actions, Ms. McCarthy? Are you going to point me back to your claim that “it’s not my fault” made on Larry King Live?
KING: Isn’t the problem here, Jenny, that people sometimes listen with one ear are going to panic. And not vaccine at all?
MCCARTHY: Probably. But guess what? It’s not my fault. The reason why they’re not vaccinating is because the vaccines are not safe. Make a better product and then parents will vaccinate.
I didn’t buy it then, I don’t buy it now.
And a similar sentiment
KING: Probably due to you, jenny, and programs like this, the percentage of children getting vaccinations is dropping.
Do you think that’s good?
MCCARTHY: I think it’s only good because it’s the only thing that’s going to shake up the CDC to do something about it.
Yes, they and others have been doing something about “it”. It being the drop in vaccination rates, not the alleged problems with vaccines you were intending. Many people have spent a lot of time trying to prevent or reduce the outbreaks we are seeing now. The question is why weren’t you working on avoiding this?
As I stated at the outset, it’s only courageous to stand up against prevailing opinion if you are willing to take responsibility and fix problems if/when you are proved wrong.
Ms. McCarthy, you were wrong. You were wrong to spread fear. And you can’t get out of it with a simple “it’s not my fault”. It is partly your fault that outbreaks are happening.
And are these outbreaks causing people to accept your position and make the changes you asked for?
And all this doesn’t even touch on the problems of your promotion of unsafe “therapies” for autism, an issue much closer to my heart.
By Matt Carey